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Meng buys pizza for media

A pizza delivery to the Vancouver home of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou turned into an unexpected lunch on Wednesday for members of the media camped outside.

When six pizza were delivered to Meng's house the delivery driver was instructed to take four of them to reporters and photographers who were stationed on the sidewalk.

Meng made a brief appearance at the front door earlier when she said goodbye to three people who left in a car with diplomatic licence plates.

Meng was freed Tuesday on $10 million bail by a B.C. Supreme Court judge.

The terms of her bail also require Meng to wear an electronic tracking device and be subject to 24-hour surveillance by a company that employs former police and military personnel to monitor people.

Meng is facing possible extradition to the United States on allegations she misled financial institutions about business Huawei did with Iranian telecommunications companies in violation of international sanctions.

She has denied the allegations through her lawyer in court, promising to fight them if she is extradited.



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TSB on runaway train

The Transportation Safety Board has issued rail-safety advisories involving a crash in April of last year that killed three workers and injured two others in the Vancouver Island community of Woss.

A WorksafeBC report issued in October said decaying railway ties and the failure of a safety mechanism allowed rail cars at a Western Forest Products reload centre to run uncontrolled and hit two work equipment vehicles with the five men aboard.

The board's report issued Wednesday adds to the conclusion, saying the 11 cars loaded with logs rolled away after a locking device between the cars inadvertently released.

The report also says a safety device meant to derail the runaway cars failed to work because the rail ties were deteriorating and the device hadn't been adequately secured.

The board issued two rail safety advisory letters after its investigation, including one to railways, regulators and associations over the use of visual verification to ensure locking devices between cars are secure.

It says another advisory letter went to B.C.'s Ministry of Transportation saying it may want to review how the derail devices are installed, maintained and inspected on properties operated by Western Forest Products.

The railway operated by the company is provincially regulated, but the safety board conducted the investigation at the request of the Transportation Ministry.

The company announced last month that the Englewood Train — believed to be the last operating logging railroad in North American — would shut down.

No one from Western Forest Products was immediately available to comment on the report.



Travel advisory all week

UPDATE 1:15 p.m.

Drivers are advised to prepare for more winter weather conditions and possible delays when travelling to and from the Interior for the remainder of the week.

Environment Canada has issued a travel advisory for the Coquihalla Highway from Hope to Merritt, as up to 30 centimetres of snow is expected to fall in the region by end of day today. Independent forecasters suggest that could be followed by waves of heavy snowfall that continue through Friday. This follows a previous weather system that delivered approximately 25 centimetres of snow earlier this week.

So far this week, VSA Maintenance has implemented the Coquihalla Snowshed Protocol for 52 hours and anticipates that it will be implemented again to deal with the forecast. The protocol is a comprehensive 10-step plan to ensure safe highway conditions are maintained through the corridor during heavy snowfall or other challenging weather systems.

A mandatory chain-up has been in effect as required for commercial vehicle operators, who are reminded of the enhanced regulations requiring an increase in the number of chains on their trucks, depending on weight and configuration. The new Box Canyon facility is intended for chain-up only and overnight parking is not permitted.

Commercial truck drivers are also reminded of the no trucks in the left lane pilot project, which restricts them from using the far-left lane on Snowshed Hill. This allows for better traffic flow (including emergency vehicles) and plowing operations, as well as significantly reducing the time it takes to get people moving after a full closure.


UPDATE: 12:15 p.m.

DriveBC now estimates northbound lanes on the Coquihalla Highway should open about 1 p.m. this afternoon.

The highway has been closed since shortly after 10 a.m. due to a crash involving what looks to be two semi trucks about nine kilometres south of Merritt.

No word on injuries or a cause of the crash.


UPDATE: 10:30 a.m.

A crash has closed northbound lanes of the Coquihalla Highway just south of Merritt, near the Comstock exit.

Pictures sent in from the scene seem to show at least two semis were involved.

One semi has turned completely around, facing the wrong direction on the highway.

Tow trucks and emergency crews are on the scene.

No word on how long the portion of highway will be closed, or what caused the crash.


ORIGINAL: 6:45 a.m.

Environment Canada's snowfall warning for the Coquihalla Highway - Hope to Merritt remains in effect Wednesday.

Another storm will bring 20 to 30 cm of snow to the Coquihalla Highway between Hope and Merritt by Thursday morning.

A moist and unsettled airmass will maintain a few flurries over the Coquihalla Highway between Hope and Merritt today. A few centimetres of snow are possible this morning.

Snow will then intensify late this afternoon as the next storm system moves onshore. Heavy snow will continue tonight and is expected to ease Thursday.

You are advised to adjust your driving with changing road conditions and to prepare for quickly changing and deteriorating travel conditions. If visibility is reduced while driving, slow down, watch for taillights ahead and be prepared to stop.

Weather in the mountains can change suddenly resulting in hazardous driving conditions and check DriveBc and Castanet highway cameras before heading out on to the highways. Visibility may be suddenly reduced at times in heavy snow. Poor weather conditions may contribute to transportation delays.



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Gov't eyes fishery closures

The provincial government is proposing fishing closures on several Vancouver Island rivers following drought conditions last summer.

The Koksilah and Chemainus River watershed closures would extend from July 1 to Sept. 30, 2019, "to reflect the increased severity and duration of conditions typically experienced in those systems," CTV News reports.

The Big Qualicum, Puntledge, Quinsam, Oyster and Nitinat rivers would not be affected by the closures.

On the Cowichan River, fly fishing would only be permitted in certain areas between Sept. 1 and Nov. 15.

The closures would help fish endure the stress of low flow levels and when stream temperatures are highest, the province says.

"The cumulative impacts of elevated water temperatures and severely reduced stream flows generate additional stress on fish populations," the government said.

– with files from CTV Vancouver Island



Thousands living homeless

The first-ever provincewide homeless-count report found almost 8,000 people are homeless in B.C.

And Indigenous peoples and former children in care are significantly overrepresented.

According to the report - which brings together statistics from 24 communities over the past two years - at least 7,655 people are experiencing homelessness across a broad demographic of individuals, families, youth and seniors.

"Too many British Columbians - working, on a pension, suffering from illness - have been left behind for far too long," said Shane Simpson, Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction. "This level of homelessness should never have been allowed to take hold. The numbers we're seeing make us even more determined to make housing more available and affordable for all British Columbians."

The B.C. government began working with partners to take action on homelessness soon after being sworn in last year by fast-tracking modular housing in 22 communities, and supportive housing for Indigenous peoples, seniors, and women and children fleeing violence.

Modular units are being built in Vernon, Kelowna and Kamloops.

The Vernon shelter and low-income apartments are expected to open early next year.

"Having a place to call home, knowing there is somewhere to go that is safe and secure means different things to different people," said Selina Robinson, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. "For some, it is a new start, opening a door to new opportunities. For others it is hope, relief from grinding despair.

"At the same time, we know there are many more people who still need a safe place to call home. We continue to work closely with all our partners to find solutions, build new housing and deliver effective supports. The kind of homelessness we're seeing today didn't happen overnight and it won't be fixed overnight, but we haven't waited to get started."

The report is the first time this information has been compiled on a provincial level and will help government, community partners and housing providers develop better supports and services to help people who are experiencing, or at risk of, homelessness.

"This report is another reminder of why we have made it a priority to rebuild the social programs people rely on," added Simpson. "Many people living on the street are struggling with challenges that are intensified through their experience of being homeless. You can't live on the street and not be affected both mentally and physically by the constant struggle.

"In the coming months, we will be looking to other levels of government and our community partners to help us deliver a wide range of supports, with a focus on early intervention services that will help prevent people from becoming homeless in the first place."



Manhunt on for molester

Vancouver Police are looking for a man who lured a small child away from her school and sexually assaulted her.

The assault took place last Wednesday in South Vancouver.

Const. Jason Doucette said on Dec. 5, a six-year-old girl was allegedly lured from playground at Sexsmith Elementary School on Columbia and West 59th Avenue by a stranger.

“She was taken to a nearby location where she was assaulted before he walked her back to the school,” said Doucette.

The suspect is described as a darker-skinned man, approximately 30-years-old, with brown or grey hair. He was wearing grey pants.

Detectives from VPD Sex Crimes Unit are looking for dash-cam footage from anyone who may have been driving in the area between 8:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. on Dec. 5. Specifically, police are looking for footage from anyone driving in this area: West 58th Avenue along the north, West 60th Avenue at the south, Ontario Street to the east, and Cambie Street at the west.

“Public safety, especially a child’s wellbeing, is the VPD’s No. 1 priority,” said Doucette. “Our detectives have now had an opportunity to speak with the victim and follow up on leads and are using the information to ask for the public’s help. We want to hear from anyone who could have seen something or may have dash-cam footage.”

Anyone who may have been in the area on last Wednesday afternoon and saw anything suspicious, is asked to call detectives in VPD’s Sex Crimes Unit at 604-717-0603 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.



Worker hurt by own truck

UPDATE 1:22 p.m.

Traffic is moving normally again after a single-vehicle collision shut down the intersection of David Avenue and Shaughnessy Street, Coquitlam for several hours this morning.


ORIGINAL

A single-vehicle collision at just after 8 a.m. Wednesday morning has closed David Avenue at Shaughnessy Street in Coquitlam.

“Coquitlam RCMP’s initial investigation has learned that a construction worker was hurt after trying to stop their own vehicle from rolling backwards down a hill. The driver has been taken to hospital with serious injuries,” said Cpl. Michael McLaughlin.

“Police investigators will likely be on scene for hours and will need to keep the road closed until all necessary evidence has been gathered. Please monitor the Coquitlam RCMP website and social media pages for updates on when the road will be reopened.”



Barge blaze on the Fraser

Firefighters continue to battle a blaze on a bunkhouse barge on the Fraser River in Mission.

The fire broke out about 3 a.m., CTV News reports.

Crews from the Mission and Maple Ridge fire departments were dispatched to the blaze, which has been hard to fight because there are no hydrants in the area.

The barge is used to house people working in remote areas.

It is believed to have been empty when the fire started.

– with files from CTV Vancouver



Honour killing extradition

A court has upheld the extradition of two British Columbia residents accused of hiring assailants to murder their relative in India because she married a poor rickshaw driver.

The B.C. Court of Appeal has denied Malkit Kaur Sidhu and Surjit Singh Badesha's request for a stay of proceedings and a judicial review.

Indian authorities allege the pair were involved in the so-called "honour killing" of Sidhu's daughter and Badesha's niece, Jaswinder Kaur Sidhu, in 2000.

An RCMP operation to extradite the two was halted in Toronto as they were boarding a Delhi-bound plane in September 2017 when their lawyers filed applications for judicial review.

Sidhu and Badesha's application argued they weren't given the chance to review the federal justice minister's decisions to extradite them and they were denied access to counsel.

The appeal court says the justice minister's actions did amount to an abuse of process but it does not warrant a stay of proceedings in this case.



Advice on police switch

Surrey has asked for help from Vancouver's city staff and police force as it moves forward with a plan to replace its RCMP detachment with a municipal police service.

Mayor Doug McCallum says in a news release that the Vancouver Police Department is internationally recognized as a best-practice, evidence-based force and Surrey hopes to create a similar model.

He says Surrey wants a municipal police service that takes a leading-edge approach to preventing and solving crime and social issues that impact its communities.

The city says it has put forward a request for technical assistance from Vancouver and its police department, and the cities will now work to develop a partnership agreement.

It says it wants to draw on Vancouver's knowledge of legal and financial issues related to policing, while learning from the police department's expertise with strategic planning, developing a transition plan and building an operational policing model.

Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart says his city and police board are interested and willing to explore a formal partnership to support Surrey's transition.

"It is important we do all we can to fight crime across the region," he says.

The release says Vancouver's deputy city manager Paul Mochrie will work with Surrey's general manager of policing transition Terry Waterhouse to develop a draft partnership agreement.

This will allow for the efficient and effective delivery of policing services as Surrey transitions to a municipal police department, it says.

"What Vancouver and its police department bring to the table are experience and knowledge that will help us create, in short order, a police department that meets the needs of our city and ensures the safety and security of all Surrey residents," says McCallum.

At the first city council meeting after his election this fall, McCallum and Surrey's eight councillors voted unanimously to begin working toward development of a municipal police force and termination of the city's RCMP contract.

McCallum has said he believes the switch to municipal policing can be accomplished within the next two years at a cost of about $120 million.

Surrey RCMP have said their officers will remain on the job throughout any changes and noted that statistics show crime has declined in the city over the past decade, including violent offences and property crimes.



Industrial fire on Fraser

CTV News is reporting that fire crews are battling a serious blaze in the Mission area.

Crews are battling an industrial fire in the Silverdale area of Mission, along the Fraser River.

Reports indicate that an industrial building is completely engulfed and the fire department is trucking in water.

No word on any injuries or what may have started the fire.

-with files from CTV News



Condominium market strong

A tempting bright-red advertisement for a new condo development in a Vancouver suburb circulated online this fall, sparking excitement from first-time homebuyers and concern among long-standing real estate observers.

The developers of The Landing, a 78-unit complex in Langley, were offering to pay the mortgages for a year of the first 20 buyers and give remaining buyers a $10,000 discount.

It looked like a sign of the times: had provincial and federal government measures to cool the market been too successful? Were developers stuck with a glut of inventory as sales and prices dropped off a cliff?

Not really, according to the marketer behind the promotion.

"The way we run our sales programs is we run basically a different promotion almost every week. I've been working in suburban markets for a long time and honestly, what I'm seeing right now is it's not even at a normal market. It's still a lot better," said Trevor Street, CEO of the Partners Marketing Group.

"What's normal for me is having four or five other sites that are active, that are open, that buyers can go to and shop around. I remember a time marketing developments when I ran out of registers to call in our database and started cold-calling rental buildings."

That was back in 2013 or 2014, he said, before Vancouver's real estate market exploded and a ripple effect moved through its suburbs and the rest of British Columbia. By 2016, Street definitely didn't have to run any promotions — he even told developers not to bother building sales centres.

The Fraser Valley, east of Metro Vancouver, has long been considered a more affordable haven for first-time homebuyers.

After prices and sales climbed across the Lower Mainland in 2015 and 2016, the B.C. and federal governments stepped in to attempt to cool the market. In the past nine months, sales have slowed and prices have curbed their meteoric rise. But while the market is softening, it's not over-correcting, just returning to a more normal state after a wild few years, experts say.

Street said he realized about six months ago that suburban developers needed to bring back promotions to entice buyers. But while amateur investors are sitting out, professional investors are jumping on board, he said.

"They're coming in right now and it's a feeding frenzy," he said. "These guys know this isn't going to last. These downturns last nine months to a year, and we're already nine months into it."

The average price of an apartment in the Fraser Valley Real Estate Board coverage area, which includes Surrey, White Rock, Langley and other communities, was $383,204 last month, still up from $359,053 in November 2017. In the same month in 2014, it was $200,952.

As for detached housing, the average price was $1,017,754 last month, up from $1,011,787 in November 2017 and considerably higher than $653,426 in November 2014.

The real estate board prefers to use a "benchmark" price, which adjusts for the high and low ends of the markets, and that figure was $976,200 for a detached house last month and $422,500 for an apartment.

The market started really heating up in the beginning of 2015, said board president John Barbisan.

Barbisan said he uses the sales-to-active-listings ratio, referring to the number of sales compared to active listings, as a thermometer. In a balanced market, the ratio sits around 18 per cent, meaning almost two in 10 homes are selling. The higher the ratio gets, the more advantage to the seller, and in 2016 it was 60 per cent, he said.

Government policies have helped move the pendulum, but it was more or less inevitable, and global housing markets are also slowing down, Saretsky said. People are quick to criticize the stress test and new provincial taxes while forgetting how easy regulators have gone on the housing market for years, he added.

"Everyone in the world talks about how indebted Canadian households are. There's no question that it's definitely been a pretty lenient borrowing spree over the last 15, 20 years," he said. "Now, all of a sudden everybody's upset because the punch bowl's been taken away. But parties don't go on forever."

He acknowledged that it's hard on real estate agents because sales volumes are down and they're making less money.

"But, again, I think we've had it pretty good for a number of years."



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